Hindu Wedding Traditions
Before marriage the most important function in the Hindu wedding traditions is Mehendi or Henna ceremony. The date for this ceremony is also determined by a reading of the horoscope of the bride and the groom. This is largely a female function and all the female members of the bride’s and groom’s family gather under one roof and apply designs with henna on the hands of the bride and also on their own hands and feet. The color of Mehendi in Hindu wedding traditions, you will note, signifies undying love of the bride for the groom.
You will find that music and dance is an integral part of Hindu wedding traditions. The groom’s family or the bride’s family may arrange a number of Sangeet parties where the members of both families meet and sing together and interact. They have their meals together and bond with each other. In many communities, men and women dance without inhibition and enjoy themselves. The expenses of these functions can be borne by either party and these are optional.
The Hindu wedding traditions give a lot of importance to the Girija puja. This puja or worship of the Goddess is performed to invoke the blessing of the deity for the long and happy married life of the couple. This worship is normally performed on the day preceding, the wedding day.
The Pithi or the ceremonial Turmeric Wash
This function is performed to cleanse the bride and groom and make them look their best on their wedding day. You will find similar rituals exist in Jewish, Arabic and other wedding customs across the world. Both partners are elaborately rubbed over with turmeric and sandal wood paste.
Did you know that the turmeric is considered to be holy and essential for the protection of the skin and hence it plays a significant role in the life of a Hindu wife thereafter?
Finally, the priest determines the most auspicious date and time for the wedding on the basis of the reading of the horoscopes of the bride and the groom.
You will note that the wedding itself is a long drawn out affair with elaborate rituals that go on for about 6-8 hours. The wedding dais or Mandap is decorated with flowers. The bride and groom are richly attired in expensive clothes and jewels. You will note that the weddings in Southern India take place during the day and the weddings in the North of India are celebrated at night. Weddings in Bengal and Kerala are not very elaborate while wedding ceremonies in other parts of the country are very elaborate and can overlap a single day or even three days. However, the basic rituals and concepts are similar.In Hindu wedding traditions the ceremony includes a number of vedic rituals where the bride and groom pledge themselves to a partnership that is holy and supportive. The groom draws the attention of the bride to the steadfastness and love of Arundhati (daughter of the Sage Patañjali and wife of the sage (rishi) Vasishtha) for her husband and requests her to bear him a similar love. The couple makes a lifelong commitment to each other by taking the Saptapathi or the seven steps—representing the seven vows of Vedic marriage– round a fire–which is considered to be the witness to the sanctity of the ceremony and their intentions.
These ceremonies are interspersed with lighter moments where the bride and the groom are asked to compete against each other in a game or the brides sisters steal the shoes of the groom and demand money from him for their return and so on.
The Wedding Night in Bride’s Home
Interestingly, the nuptial night in Hindu wedding traditions is arranged in the bride’s home. The purpose is to make the bride feel comfortable among her own people while she steps out from girlhood and to womanhood. The bed is decorated with flowers and the bedposts are hung with strings of flowers. The bride and groom consume milk and fruits—which signify prosperity and everlasting health and happiness.
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